Nearly half (44%) of women surveyed in the media and marketing industry in India say they have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, yet men and women in India are the least likely of any Asian country to report such instances, according to a survey by Campaign Asia-Pacific and Kantar. Just 9% said they had reported seeing or experiencing something to employers, compared to an average of 14% across the region.
The findings from the study, which was released in May this year at Campaign's Women Leading Change conference, tie in with the reports emerging on social media this week that describe women's long-held fear of speaking out against men who, they say, repeatedly subjected them to a huge variety of inappropriate behavior. Men who are named in the allegations work or have worked at top agencies including DDB Mudra, Dentsu Webchutney and Publicis, who have all made official responses.
Speaking about the study at the time of release, Publicis Media's Gerry Boyle said: "We have an emotional contract with people who work for us, that they should come to a safe environment at a very minimum. We've got to put in place conditions so people can feel they speak out.”
The study also found that almost a quarter of people in Indian advertising had observed sexual harassment at work, and 41% said they would be more likely to report such behaviour if they knew that their career would not suffer.
17% of men in India also said they had experienced harassment based on their gender. The results are based on 30 responses from India, which is at the lower end of what Kantar says it considers statistically significant.
"We’ve known the industry to have put a lot of women to this ordeal over the years. However, it is shocking that so many people out there have tried their hands and women had to wait for #MeToo to open up."
—Anita Nayyar, CEO, Havas Media Group India
Speaking on the findings and the recent #MeToo reports circulating on social media, Anne Rayner, regional chief solutions officer at Kantar's insights division, said: "We’ve witnessed a clear shift in the debate on gender in the past year. People are now more aware of the prevalence of inequality, and more forceful in the desire to call out bad behaviour when they see it, according to the results of research we conducted in Asia this year.
"We all need to take accountability for calling out inappropriate behaviour when we see it—although we know this is often easier said than done. Creating a culture where people can just say ‘hey, that’s not OK’ in the moment is another powerful way of ensuring sexual misconduct doesn’t get swept under the carpet in our businesses. Many companies have ‘if you see something, say something’ programs when it comes to fraud or bribery reporting—this has to be applied to sexual misconduct too.”
Anita Nayyar, CEO of Havas Media Group India, said the emerging allegations are "neither surprising nor shocking". "We’ve known the industry to have put a lot of women to this ordeal over the years. However, it is shocking that so many people out there have tried their hands and women had to wait for #MeToo to open up."
Nayyar expressed hope that the claims kicking up a firestorm across the media in India might encourage change across the region, where the #MeToo movement remains nascent compared to in Western countries. "Yes, it should, as Asian markets compared to the West are more conservative and tolerant of such misgivings," she said. "More #MeToos should lead to a lot more #NomeansNo."
Women face the same problems in relation to sexual harassment and assault in Asia as in other parts of the world, said Fiona Nott, CEO of The Women's Foundation in Hong Kong, including "entrenched gender stereotypes, power imbalances, unconscious biases, fear of speaking up, and systems and structures that make it difficult for survivors to take action or speak out."
"One year on since the hashtag #MeToo went viral, we continue to hope that we are witnessing a critical shift in attitudes toward sexual assault and sexual harassment, in Asia and globally. We are optimistic the courageous actions we are seeing from survivors and allies as well as supportive institutions and public actors will help transform the harmful cultures in our communities that have allowed this type of behaviour to go unchecked.”
12 female leaders from the ad industry in India, including agencies such as JWT, FCB Ulka, DDB Mudra and Ogilvy West, have signed an open letter addressed to 'Women of Indian Advertising, Design and Media' saying they have felt "sad, angry and violated" reading the accounts of harassment that have emerged this week. The letter pledges that they will continue "working to make our industry better and responsible, where we can hold our work and our standard high".
Dear Women of Indian Advertising, Design & Media,